Developed by: Psygnosis
Published by: Midway
Feeling Like: Whoa
I usually like to give a personal anecdote, or my take on a game’s history but not this time. Wipeout 64 is one of the coolest games I know nothing about. It’s similar to F-Zero X, but replace the exaggerated, cartoony look with a much more sleek, niche package. Unassuming. Instead of an announcer hollering, “YEAH! THE FINAL LAP!” you’ve got a matter-of-fact AI telling you what weapon you can unleash upon your enemies. The soundtrack is quintessentially late 90s, a voice yearning to distance themselves from grunge and a desire to embrace upcoming technology. Everything is muted, but crisp. It’s not a colorful racer, but it’s got plenty of style.
The sharp edges and polygons persuaded me that this should really be in the arcades, not on the N64. Even the framerate was smooth as they come. A Youtube comment I read mentions how felt like you were controlling the track itself and not your ship. I agree; the floating nature of your ship means it doesn’t feel like you’re in the driver’s seat of a car, a kart or anything else like you’ve piloted. The faint blue streak, blistering speed and indescribable noises that emerge when you run over a power up are still fresh in my mind.
I can’t go into much further detail, since my time with it was limited to a few rentals from Yo Video, but I can’t ignore the best ability in the game – the Quake Disruptor.
It’s the single most destructive, satisfying move in any racing game I’ve played. The track in front of you shoots up in a wave and crushes enemies in range. It happens quickly, and violently. It’s like you took the path in front of you like a rug and started waving it up and down. I haven’t seen anything like it before, or since and 22 years later I’m still keen to use it again. No wonder it’s the series’ trademark weapon.
There were other ways you could gain an advantage; the auto-pilot ability gave me perfect piloting for a few seconds, and time to catch my breath. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I got this one. Careening around corners at impossible speeds was a mastery worth pursuing. Laying mines behind you to ensure your hangers on remained just that. Effortlessly passing an enemy after blasting them with a missile never failed to give me a thrill.
The rave/electronic/techno soundtrack is another highlight. The beat always kept me pumped up and never felt out of place, no matter which track I found myself on. It’s impossible not to get a surge of adrenaline from it, even though the entire levels would only last a few minutes before you’re onto the next one. Re-listening to it now only makes me want a new Wipeout game.
*Googles Wipeout Racing Game*
Wait, I was supposed to avoid finding out about the history of the series. Hmm. I’ll just do a bit of research when I’m done this post. I haven’t heard anything on any of the gaming news sites or podcasts I frequent. I imagine if the series is anything like F-Zero, then I’ll be supremely disappointed in a lack of a recent entry and filled with hopelessness at the lack of news of an upcoming one.
That’s the tradeoff when you play a game that wasn’t part of a massive franchise or commercial success. You might have your heart broken. Come back, Wipeout!